Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation from Fire: What to Know

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The attorneys at Ronemus & Vilensky prepare each case as if it were going to trial, whether it does or not. If the insurance company does not offer a fair settlement, we will be prepared to try the case in court.


The Human Suffering from New York City Fires

According to data from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), from 2020 through 2021, there were 24,429 structural fires in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, of which most occurred in minority communities. Several of these fires in the metropolitan NY area resulted in fatalities, severe injuries, and displaced families. One of the most common results of these fires is smoke inhalation injuries.

The law firm of Ronemus & Vilensky, LLP has played a critical role in the recovery process for burn and smoke inhalation injury victims. We have fought for the rights of fire victims in some of the most challenging cases since we first opened our doors.

How Does Smoke Inhalation Occur?

Smoke inhalation occurs when individuals become trapped in an enclosed space during a fire, often damaging and irritating the lungs and airways. Victims of a smoke inhalation injury can experience discomfort almost immediately. However, some people exposed to smoke from a fire can take up to 24-36 hours to develop signs of severe lung irritation.

Another grave concern is irritant compounds combustion, which can occur when chemicals burn during a fire, resulting in smoke inhalation victims. In addition, when the particles of a solid are heated, they move faster and farther apart, taking up more room and creating a toxic environment — which is dangerous for everyone in the building.

Inhaling Smoke Can Cause Rapid Breathing, Among Other Symptoms

Victims often experience throat irritation, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, congestion, chest discomfort, eye irritation, mental confusion. These symptoms are generally triggered by the tiny particles found in smoke. Other ailments resulting from inhaling smoke can include shortness of breath (due to chemical irritants) and, in extreme cases, lung disease and respiratory failure (damage to the respiratory tract). Chemical irritation can also result in significant respiratory distress due to chemical asphyxiation.

In addition, a smoke inhalation victim can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide lessens the supply of oxygen to the body and can cause headaches and exacerbate an existing heart condition.

Heated Particles Also Pose A Severe Threat

When heated particles in a gas, such as sulfur dioxide, move quickly in all directions, this is particularly dangerous when a fire breaks out and a person is entrapped in a closed area. They will likely require smoke inhalation treatment.

What to Do If You Have Smoke Inhalation Symptoms: Seek Medical Services

A person exposed to smoke during a fire often requires immediate care. Follow-up care may also be needed for victims who don’t demonstrate clinical improvement. Be sure you’re monitored for smoke inhalation symptoms and have your circulation, airway, and breathing checked. Get CPR, if necessary, while waiting for medical help to arrive.

In severe cases, you should seek emergency medical services for immediate care. Doctors can perform blood tests, a blood gas test (also known as an arterial blood gas test), and a chest x-ray. They can also check for a blockage to the upper airways, nasal passages, and mucous membranes. A doctor may also prescribe a nasal tube to help with difficulty breathing. In addition, a compression chamber may be required in severe cases, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

You should also contact an attorney experienced in handling victims of fires.

Anyone experiencing smoke inhalation damage, hoarse voice or noisy breathing, breathing with difficulty, or other smoke-produced symptoms should do the following:

  • Sleep in a reclined position, or prop your head up with pillows in order to help you breathe easier.
  • Avoid anything that may irritate your lungs, such as extremely cold, hot, humid, or dry air.
  • Do breathing exercises as instructed by your doctor, commonly referred to as bronchial hygiene therapy.

Note: A hoarse voice could be an indication that fluids have collected in the upper airway.

Preventing Smoke Inhalation, Avoid Exposure

According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoke alarms and smoke detectors, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom and outside these rooms can help prevent smoke inhalation. In addition, if there is smoke, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a clean cloth or rag so that smoke or toxic chemicals cannot enter the lungs. However, if exposed, as previously stated you will require immediate care in order to prevent further damage to your lungs, eyes, ears, nose and throat due to fine particles or other possible exposures.

Contact the Law Firm of Ronemus & Vilensky

If you have been a victim of a fire and are suffering due to damage caused by smoke inhalation, contact the attorneys at Ronemus & Vilensky for a free consultation. Our experienced personal injury lawyers handle injury cases caused by fire and/or smoke inhalation and have recovered millions of dollars in damages to cover financial losses, including past and future medical bills, loss of earnings, pain, suffering, and more.